Presented by MediaPost.com at SXSW 3/11/2016

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A number of consumers don’t like annoying ads, ad clutter, slow-loading sites and sites that use way too much data due to too many ads. Ad-blocking companies are making it easier for users to control their experience by blocking ads on all sites or the sites they select. So, are consumers that use ad blockers all pirates? Are they consuming free content but not letting sites make ad revenue? Or did publishers and marketers bring this upon themselves?

Marketing, ad blocking and publishing executives discussed these issues at the SXSW session entitled “We're Not Gonna Take It: Ad Blocking and User Revolt.” On the stage were Rob Griffin, Chief Innovation Officer for Almighty, Lewis D’Vorkin, Chief Product Officer at Forbes Media, Margorie Gray, DISH Digital Brand Manager, and Ben Williams, Head of Operation for Adblock Plus. Here are the primary takeaways from the publisher, ad-blocker and marketer points of view.

Forbes – The Publisher

The goals of Forbes.com and other publishers is to find the right middle ground between continuing to bring in ad revenue for the website and providing the best possible consumer experience for its users. Forbes continues to explore, looking for a balance in the equation of consumer experience versus ad revenue.

Forbes.com recently implemented a test where ad-blocker users were asked to disable their blockers to get the Forbes Ad Light experience (fewer ads in the content consumer’s view) or pay to access the content they desired to read. About 40% of blocker users (or 5.4 million people) actually tuned off their blockers. As it turns out, consumes that used ad-blockers and turned them off spent more time on the site and viewed more content than consumers that don’t use blockers. Both groups viewed the same types of content. Tech content consumers were not heavier users of ad-blocking. The goal of this test was to to learn what consumers really want.

Adblock Plus – The Ad-Blocker

Adblock Plus and the ad-blocking industry in general is looking to provide consumers with the power to dictate their own user experience when it comes to online content.
From the ad-blocking industries perspective, people are dissatisfied with all annoying ads, too many ads, ads that cause sites to load slowly and the amount of data that ads eat-up to load on pages. Ads aren’t bad. Annoying ads that overwhelm the page are bad.

Adblock Plus has initiated a program called the Acceptable Ads Initiative. This is a way to develop and serve the types of ads that are acceptable to ad-blockers and consumers. The initiative is based on ad size, placement location and labeling. Marketers meet with Adblock Plus to get their ads approved and therefore whitelisted or approved to not get blocked by Adblock Plus. While this is free to most marketers, the top 10 percent of marketers pay to get their ads whitelisted. An independent committee of industry experts will take this over at the end of 2016 to determine which ads are acceptable or not. Only seven to eight percent of blocker users still opt-out of ads that have been whitelisted.

Adblocker also stated that while ad blocking is growing, it will never reach a saturation level. They project that it will never exceed 25 percent of online users blocking ads. Also, if an ad is blocked by an ad blocker, it means that the ad was never served to that webpage. Advertisers won’t be charged for the impression since it never occurred.

DISH – The Marketer

Marketers, like DISH, feel that it is partly their fault for allowing this negative environment to be created. As online ads became cheaper, marketers ran more ads. As ad clutter began to take place, marketers pushed for more intrusive ads that would break through the clutter. That helped to create the consumer demand for ad-blocking technology.

Marketers are now looking to determine what makes the most sense in terms of reaching consumers. They are trying to become even more targeted in order to be able to make sure consumers are seeing relevant ads in which they are actually interested. They don’t want to reach the right people with the wrong ads. Blockers are forcing marketers to do a better job of being more relevant with the ads that they run. DISH did mention that if they are being honest, this is not too different from the auto ad-hopping technology that they provide to their subscribers.

Millennials are the primary users of blockers. Marketers find it a bit ironic that this audience loves to post anything and everything that happens in their lives all over the internet but do not want to be annoyed by ads on the content pages they view.

Finally, marketers also noted that they are already paying agencies and publishers to create ads, and now they have to pay another fee to make sure their ads can actually be viewed by users of blockers.

So, what is the future of a-blocking? For now, continued growth. Whether it will always exist is hard to say. The United Kingdom is considering making ad-blocking technology illegal, as it has a negative impact on business and the economy.

Stay tuned!